How spark plugs hold the answer to life…

Early this morning I was driving and I had one of those “That’s it, I’ve had it…” moments and made my way to my mechanic.  My car had been running a bit…off, lately.  It seemed to be struggling somehow, and as I had been putting off spark plug replacement for a while, today seemed as good a time as any.

As I was changing them I had a revelation:  Out in the driveway, working on an automobile, one can learn things about life.  So here is my examination of the parallels between changing spark plugs and the answer to life:

Yes please!

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  

If you go to AutoZone right now and ask for spark plugs, you will most likely be steered in the direction of a company called Bosch.  Is it because they are the best?  No.  They’re not even the most expensive.  It’s because their margin of profit is higher on that brand.  In fact, those plugs are shit.  That’s why I go to my mechanic, who once was a sales rep for AutoZone, for a recommendation before going elsewhere to buy them.

You get what you pay for.  

I acquired my current car in the not so distant past from a woman who had kept meticulous service records.  According to them, it had not really been that long since her last plug job was done (on the car, I mean).   It was not until I removed the old ones that I discovered the reason for their early failure.  Apparently someone had used two different brands, both of which were crap.  I did some checking, and both brands are available at my local Meijer store.  I rest my case.

Something about putting American spark plugs in a Japanese car doesn’t seem right…

Keep things consistent… It’s less confusing that way.  

There are a few basic no-brainer rules when it comes to spare parts.  One of the more basic ones is don’t mix and match.  Just don’t.  Ever.  With those two different types of plugs in the car, the computer couldn’t adjust for a consistent fuel burn, eventually causing a juddering feeling, especially when going up hills.  Mrs. Previous Owner had literally managed to confuse an inanimate object.

Whatever you’re doing, have fun with it.  

Growing up, I had a neighbor that had literally 16 cars.  Some were new, and a few were project cars.  I could sometimes hear him working on them, and there were times when I thought he was going to have a stroke.  It was not uncommon to hear, “Gawd, damnit!  …CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!” as the wrench, or whatever tool he happened to be holding, bounced along the driveway.  This usually happened when he was working on his Mercedes, but that’s another topic.  I, on the other hand, have a fairly enjoyable time working on my car, which is why I do it in the first place.  While it may not seem pleasant, there can be a great deal of enjoyment in getting your hands dirty from time to time.

After smoking a victory cigarette I took the coupe out to make sure I hadn’t cocked anything up, and just as I expected, life in the Accord is much smoother.

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On life, and watching it happen…

Let me start by saying that at the age of 22, I have no desire to be responsible for someone else’s life for 18 years.  Should children ever become a big part of my life, they will probably be nieces and nephews.  Having said that, it’s time for a story…

Newton was born on Christmas Eve in a barn, someplace in Kentucky where that sort of thing is commonplace.  When I first met him he had been on this earth no longer than a month.  He could fit in the palm of my hand, along with his sister, and I fed him from a bottle.   He was at my parent’s house as part of a foster program they participate in – they have what we call the “puppy room” – and when it came time to adopt him out, I said “nope.”

He is now 14 months old and he weighs 112 pounds.  I now have to be mindful of what I leave out on the kitchen counter.  Lesson learned:  Be careful what you wish for.  He is a great dog though.  He’s absolutely beautiful and has more attitude than most of the queens I know.

"Girl, don't point that thing at me." - 14 weeks.

The first night I had him was his first night without his sister, who had been adopted that day by some family friends.  At bedtime I put him in his crate, and he did really well….for around 2.5 seconds.  After that, he wailed, cried, and barked.  I laid in bed and thought “Why, oh why, did I think this was a good idea?”  Of course, there was no way in hell I was going to get rid of him, and as time went on things got better.

At times he has tested my patience near to the breaking point.  When he was young he developed a habit of wandering out into the yard in the darkness of the early morning, realizing that it was dark and that he was alone, and begin barking incessantly.

He looks like he is wearing eyeliner. Need I say more? - 13 months

Tomorrow I have the day off from work (my weekend starts on Monday), and there are lots of errands to run.  I am sure he will be accompanying me to most of them.  He loves riding in the car, now that we’ve got the kinks worked out.  As he outgrew the front seat, he would slip on the leather knock the car into neutral, and once into reverse (“Look out!”).  I drive a car with only two doors, and it’s rather small, so fitting him into it was becoming a problem.  I then discovered that if I moved the passenger’s seat all the way forward he could sit in the back seat, four paws on the floor, and stick his head out of the passenger’s window.

He’s since graduated from sleeping in the crate and outgrown his tendency to scare himself in the dark.  In fact, he is at the foot of my bed now, sleeping.  Watching him grow has been interesting, to say the least.  I have learned to avoid thinking that “He can not possibly get any bigger.”

Now, I just need to work on that snoring thing…. Do they make Breathe Right for dogs?

…SMOKING! Arghh! There, I said it.

It happened to me again today.  I was in the checkout at Kroger, and among my various groceries was – brace yourselves – a box of  Camel cigarettes.  Normally this is not an issue, especially in Kentucky.  So I was only half-expecting it when the cashier said, “You know these are bad for you, right?”

I’m shaking my head just recalling the experience. “Yes, dear, it’s written on the box.” was my reply.

I would like to comment on this issue.  I was wondering how to approach the subject, and I knew I had to do it delicately.  Then I realized that I didn’t care so, as usual, I’m going to call it like I see it.

Let me start by saying something – I know that smoking is bad for me.  I know that it’s full of very bad things that, should I do it long enough, will probably cause me to meet my untimely demise.  I could go over the reasons why I smoke, but needless to say it would be a futile exercise and that’s not really what I want to talk about anyway.  So here goes….

Part. 1 – Things NOT to say to a smoker:

“That’s bad for you!”

I’m just not sure how people utter this phrase and expect anything but a snide remark in reply.  Normally I am nice about it, but at some point I am going to be inclined to point out things about other people’s health.  For example, I will not hesitate to ask, “…and your Big Mac is increasing your life span, is it?”  Smoking is bad for you, but so is being fat (among many other things).

I dare you to tell the Commander-in-chief that his cigarette is bad for him.

“Smoking is so unattractive.”

Several times I have had people say this to me, without knowing that I smoke, and then pretend that they never said anything when they saw me fire one up.  I do not believe that smoking is unattractive.  Some people may find it a bit of a turn off, but that doesn’t mean everyone does.  What I find unattractive about smoking is when unattractive people smoke.

If you don't find that hot, you're lying to yourself.

Now that your malevolence towards me is likely melting your screen, I would like to explore the other side of the coin.

Pt. 2 – Smokers, it’s NOT okay to do the following:

It’s not okay to smoke in inappropriate locations or situations.  I don’t care how desperately you think you need a cigarette.  You may think you are going to die without one, but trust me, you won’t.  For example, if you are in the car with a toddler in the back seat and a pre-teen in the front, it’s not okay to have a fag, people.  “What if I am not sure whether a situation is okay for smoking?”  I hear some of you asking.  If you are wondering whether it is…it’s probably not.

It’s also not okay to use a lack of nicotine as an excuse to be an asshole.  It may have been a while and you may be a little irritated, but trust me, it could get a whole lot worse.  So at the end of the day, you’re not really nicotine starved, you’re just an asshole.

Lastly – and this is a big one – it is not okay, while in situations where it is impossible to smoke (read: at work or on a plane), to constantly talk about how you “need” a cigarette.  You don’t need it, you want it, and I believe that part of being a decent human being is knowing the difference between the two.

Well… now that I’ve got that out, I feel much better.  I’ll be outside if you need me.

Four Teeth Less the Wiser

I am happy to report that I have survived one of the most perilous surgical procedures a human being can go through – wisdom teeth removal.

From what I heard, the procedure is no problem at all (especially for the patient, who is usually unconscious). However, the recovery, I was told, is a bitch.  People reported experiences ranging from ” It was no big deal…” to “I attempted suicide multiple times.”

Based on my research, I knew they would knock me out with IV Valium, do the procedure, and then I would go home and munch on Percocet for a week.  Everything would be fine, albeit uncomfortable, as long as I followed the rules.  They were:

  • No eating solid foods for 3 days
  • No drinking from a straw
  • No sneezing with a closed mouth (“Everyone duck!”)
  • No spitting
  • Gargle with salt water 5 times a day
  • No carbonated liquids for 2 days

and last, but certainly not least…

  • No smoking (ahhh, shit!) for many, many, many days (4 days)

My 3-day recovery diet: apple juice, apple sauce, soup, pudding, and gelato. I'm that much closer to my goal weight!

Needless to say, I was not looking forward to the experience that lay before me.  Having said that, it really was not so bad.  When I got into the operating room the first thing they did was strap a mask to me that pumped some sort of gas into my nostrils which made me happy about pretty much everything.  (In case you were wondering, despite my best efforts, I was not able to purchase a to-go canister.)

Then came the Valium, which was amazing.  Good Lord, if that stuff had been more readily available the Cold War wouldn’t have happened.  I was about to have a person whom I had not met more than an hour before render me unconscious and slice my gums open and I was joking and giggling as if that chair was some sort of carnival ride.  I believe my last words to my surgeon before he administered the coup de’ grace injection of Valium was, “Have I told you that you’re super cute?”

Besides my attempt to light a cigarette just after waking from surgery, everything afterwards went fairly smoothly.  I followed the rules as best I could…I even almost made it the full four days without smoking!  I was very proud of myself (don’t judge me).   

On dating, feelings, and that nonsense…

So dating then… never has something I desire caused me this much confusion and frustration.  To be honest, I don’t usually take dating or feelings seriously…at all.  In my mind, it’s not worth it, and I have never really met a guy that caused me to think otherwise….until now (ah, crap!).

A while back I met a boy (we shall call him Jack) for dinner.  Jack was polite, interesting, playful in conversation, and he passed each and every one of my “this is a trick question to see if you are just trying to get me naked later” tests.

A moment of honesty:  Sometimes I don’t mind getting naked on the first date (and usually in those cases, the last date), but this time I was hoping it was more.  As it turns out, I was right.

Jack and I hung out a few more times and on our third date I went back to his place.  We sat on the couch and cuddled while watching TV.  This is when the good part happened (no, it’s not what you’re thinking – get your mind out of the gutter, pervert).

In his Netflix favorites was Top Gear.  For those who are not familiar, this is a British car show and the reason that, on several occasions, I have nearly packed up and moved to England.  We watched two full episodes, and not once did he have that painful look that most gays have when I subject them to car talk.  That’s when I had that cliché moment of clarity and thought, “Where have you been?”

"This one's a keeper!"

Weeks and weeks went by, and suddenly things seemed like they weren’t clicking like they were at the beginning.  A large amount of baggage from Jack’s last relationship (like several suitcases and a trunk) and my sometimes annoyingly playful nature seemed to be taking its toll, so we ended it.  It was a very civil and clean-cut “we are just friends now” conversation.  Alas, it can never be that simple, can it?

Weeks later, I am still bothered by this notion that I let things go too easily.  I have dated (and “dated”) other people in the last few weeks, to no avail.  So I’m left with a decision:  I can let it go, and possibly always regret doing so, or I can take a leap of faith and ask him for another go.

I suppose this type of thing has been happening since the first young cave man decided to stop screwing every cave chick he could find and settle down.  I seem to be stuck in this mindset that I am in completely uncharted waters, though.  As I deal with most uncertainty in life, I suppose I’ll say to myself “Here goes nothing…” and see what happens.

Wish me luck!